This is the 248th post and alert readers will recall that the end of last year included an extended run of me having to write about some of my lesser favoured topics such as light beer, cider, fruit in beers and Kim Dotcom. 

After much grovelling, pleading and promises to settle my bar tab, Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor finally deigned to allow me to begin the New Year by writing this first blog about Extreme Beers and India Pale Ales. [1] As a former world champion debater, [2] I know it is important to begin with a definition. The dictionary was not much use so I turned to the authoritative Oxford Companion to Beer.

I was unsure if the learned tome would discuss ‘extreme beer’ as it is both a relatively modern and often controversial term.  I need not have worried as there was a good page of material. Interestingly, the companion’s editor, Garrett Oliver wrote the ‘extreme brewing’ entry himself. Here are the highlights of his thought provoking piece.

Extreme brewing is “a controversial term describing fun new beers created by craft breweries who want to push the envelope of traditional brewing culture.  Although the beers themselves are widely enjoyed, the term ‘extreme brewing’ evokes either an admirable spirit of rebellious creativity or a puerile and cynical attempt to market a manufactured ‘outsider’ image, depending on one’s point of view.”

“Used more often by beer consumers, writers and bloggers than actual commercial breweries, the term ‘extreme beer’ has been applied to almost any beer that seems out of the ordinary, whether it is a matter of high alcohol, intense concentration of hop bitterness, unusual ingredients, or an innovative technique or inspiration.”

Mr Oliver does present both sides of the ‘extreme beer’ argument but it is pretty clear which point of view he personally supports. That is evidenced by his comments that “some brewers, seemingly out of a juvenile desire to appear ‘outrageous’ espouse a wish to create the ‘hoppiest beer in the world’ or the ‘strongest beer on Earth’ and inevitably set about some scheme to achieve the dubious goal. The crowing brewer, having staked a claim for some silly superlative, is inevitably soon usurped by an upstart claiming the prize for himself.” [3]

He could have been writing that paragraph about the Malthouse’s old friend BrewDog. After all, that Scottish brewery has proudly and repeatedly gone after the ‘strongest beer in the world’ title. They seem to revel in creating outrage and I have recounted a lot of their stories in previous posts. One stunt which I had not heard about before was the opening of their pub in Aberdeen where they had a tattooist on hand. If you got inked up with the company logo, you got a lot of free beer. It should be noted that this is a very bold marketing ploy in Scotland where both tattoos and alcohol consumption are national pastimes.

However, Garrett Oliver and BrewDog actually seem to get on quite well despite one being a dapper New Yorker with a penchant for jaunty hats [4] and the others being Scottish loons who happily dress up as penguins or indeed film themselves naked apart from woolly hats in an ice cream factory. Again, this really happened.

There are three new BrewDog beers at Malthouse which may qualify as ‘extreme’. First up is BrewDog Watt Dickie (35%). The brewers write “born as an India Pale Ale, Watt Dickie then undergoes patent pending (and consequently for now secret) freezing alchemy which transforms the beer into a high octane roller coaster of flavour, craftsmanship, originality and audacity.” I have not tried it and I’m not sure how to feel about it though I suspect I would like it. However, it is fair to say that Watt Dickie won’t be served in pints. Instead, it comes in a cute 60ml bottle.

I have tasted BrewDog Tokyo* (18.2%). It is an Imperial Stout with layers of complexity and is certainly one to be sipped reverentially. Ironically, this beer was denounced on the floor of the Scottish Parliament for promoting youth drinking. That seemed unlikely given the exceptionally high cost of this beer and the easy availability of cheap Buckfast, a 15% fortified wine.  

The final beer in the extreme Scottish trio is the BrewDog Mix Tape #8 (14.5%), a comparatively moderate Belgian/American ale. [5] Turning to the brewer’s notes “Mix Tape 8 is a blend of two huge oak aged beers – half a hopped up Belgian Tripel, and half a Triple India Pale Ale. These beers have both been aged in single grain whisky barrels for close to two years and finally blended to create a beer that our head brewer Stewart Bowman can most helpfully describe as ‘freaking complex’.” [6]

There are also two ‘extreme’ beers with a Hamilton connection. The Brewaucracy In Triplicate (10.3%) is a spicy, quenching Belgian Tripel. It made my Top Ten Kiwi Beers of the Year list in 2012 shortly after its release. In doing so, it became the first and so far only beer from Hamilton to receive that honour. 

The lowest alcohol ‘extreme’ beer today is Shnoodlepip (6.5%). It was a tripartite collaboration between three brewers – Kelly Ryan (then from Good George Brewery in Hamilton), Brett Ellis from the Wild Beer Co, and Mark Tranter from Burning Sky Brewery. It uses pink peppercorns, barrel aging (red wine barrels), Saison and Brettanomyces yeasts, passion fruit and tangy Hibiscus flowers. Colin also warns it “*may contain traces of Kelly Ryan.”  I suspect it will be a unique taste and, no matter what happens in the glass, Schnoodlepip is always fun to say.
There are also a number of new or returning IPAs at Malthouse. These include, but are not limited to, Weird Beard 5 o’clock shadow IPA, the rather wonderful Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, Thornbridge Chiron IPA, Wild Beer Madness IPA and the tasty Twisted Hop Hopback IPA. Making a welcome return to the taps are the impish Epic Armageddon IPA (6.66%) and BrewDog Jack Hammer IPA (7.4%). I can virtually hear today’s productivity slipping away as I type…

Next time, we drink to Corey Anderson. He seems like a decent chap, a magnificent hitter of the cricket ball and, about ten seconds after the India Premier League auction is concluded, an instant millionaire.

[1] He called this my “Christmas and birthday presents.”

[2] Readers who thought this claim was just another of my famous jokes would, for once, be wrong.  It really happened.

[3] Key giveaways include use of the words juvenile, dubious, crowing and silly.

[4] Seriously, Google “Garrett Oliver’s hat”.  It has its own Twitter account.

[5] Compared to the other two BrewDog beers listed above of course.

[6] Mr Bowman may not have actually used the word “freaking.”  He did however say “complex”.

Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine


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